Under New Jersey law, when a person dies because of the carelessness of another person—in a motor vehicle accident, a slip and fall or a construction site accident, for example—there’s a legal right to hold the wrongdoer accountable for financial losses suffered because of the death. But who has a right to bring a wrongful death action? Will the law allow anyone who had a relationship with the deceased file a lawsuit?
In New Jersey, as in other states, only a person who qualifies as a “real party in interest” may file a wrongful death action. New Jersey law limits those who may file a wrongful death claim to anyone who was either actually dependent on the decedent at the time of death or who would be entitled to an inheritance under the state’s inheritance laws. Accordingly, a wrongful death action is generally filed by the executor or administrator of the estate, on behalf of surviving family members. Those who can be plaintiffs in an accidental death claim include:
- Surviving spouses
- Children or grandchildren
- Parents of the decedent
- Siblings, nephews or nieces
The New Jersey wrongful death statute also allows anyone who can demonstrate actual dependency on the decedent to proceed with a claim.
There is a hierarchy, though, with respect to who may recover damages in a wrongful death action. If there’s a surviving spouse and children, they will recover compensation. A parent may only pursue damages if there are no children or a surviving spouse. Likewise, siblings and nieces/nephews only have a right to damages if there are no living parents, children or spouse.
Contact the Law Offices of Mallon & Tranger
To learn how we can help you in a wrongful death claim, contact us online or call us at 732-410-6094 (toll free at 877-320-0692). There is no charge for your first meeting. We have offices in Freehold, Toms River and Point Pleasant.